Book Review ~ Amy: My Search for Her Killer: Secrets & Suspects in the Unsolved Murder of Amy Mihaljevic #bookreview

amy

“I fell in love with Amy Mihaljevic not long before her body was discovered lying facedown in an Ashland County wheat field. I fell for her the first time I saw that school photo TV stations flashed at the beginning of every newscast in the weeks following her kidnapping in the autumn of 1989―the photo with the side-saddle ponytail . . .”

So begins this strange and compelling memoir in which a young journalist investigates the cold case that has haunted him since childhood.

It’s one of Northeast Ohio’s most frustrating unsolved crimes. Ten-year-old Amy Mihaljevic (Muh-ha-luh-vick) disappeared from the comfortable Cleveland suburb of Bay Village. Thousands of volunteers, police officers, and FBI agents searched for the girl, who was tragically found dead a few months later. Her killer was never found.

Fifteen years later, journalist James Renner picks up the leads. Filled with mysterious riddles, incredible coincidences, and a cast of odd but very real characters, his investigation quickly becomes a riveting journey in search of the truth.

Interesting and sad.

I’m reading this book for my local book club. Would I have picked it up on my own? Not sure. I remember quite clearly when this case happened. I remember my mother freaking out that I – or any of my friends – might be the next kid taken. Sadly, kids are taken all the time. I remember when she was found and how my mother cried. Now that I have a tot, I can identify with my mother’s reaction.

This book though, is like reading a diary. The author isn’t detailing the case, in so much as he’s recalling his reactions to what happened, his path to writing the initial story for the Cleveland paper and eventually the book deal.

In some instances, I got a little spooked. I know the area where she was taken and where she was found. It hit a little too close to home for me. There were moments in the book that the author talks about his life and I recall what I was doing around those times. But the thing that struck me the most about this book is the author certainly got too close to the subject. I know, how can one get close to a deceased person? Let’s just say there were more than a few times when it seemed like he was more interested in getting with the fictionalized version of the girl that he’d created in his mind, than anything else.

I get it. If you were a kid around that time, the whole thing was scary. I learned from the example. Don’t go anywhere without telling anyone and don’t go off with anyone you don’t know. Renner hits that point home often in this book. While it’s a quick read, I had to go in with the mindset that he’s writing more from his own perspective than that of an omniscient observer.  I don’t know how being possibly hit on by one of the girl’s friends had much to do with solving the murder. Honestly, that moment felt like an aside that didn’t need to be in the book. But the murder did affect his life and that of the people who knew the girl. Sadness affects everyone differently and if this was his way to cope, then so be it.

If you like crime stories and are willing to get past the personalized ares in some of the book, then this might be the read for you.

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Book Review Thursday ~ Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar #bookreview #books

BOXThe little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

I have to admit I’m a Stephen King junkie. I am. I’m also a bit of a short story junkie, too. When I saw this book at my local library, just sitting there unassumingly on the shelf, I had to sneak a peek. I mean, it’s a King and her name is Gwendy…close to Wendi, right?

So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. This was a quick read and even though it’s short, when I had to put it down to deal with life, I didn’t have to do a bunch of rereading to catch back up.

Gwendy is an interesting character. She has an awesome power within her and within the button box. Will she use it? Will she succumb? Will she get a big head from the power? I liked that Gwendy is relatable. There are things that made her more than she was, but I liked her human-ness. Now I would’ve been more than a little freaked out if some random guy wanted me to sit with him. Even more if he’d have offered me a box. I don’t know how Gwendy did it, but she did.

I liked how she grew through the story, too. The creep factor isn’t as strong in this story, which was nice for me because I wasn’t looking for a freaky story. But might be a turn off for others.

If you want a recent historical story with more than few twists, then this might be the short story you’re looking for. Oh and try a chocolate. I hear the detailing is fantastic.

Random Thought ~ Icons and Music with @MeganSlayer #music #icons #gonetoosoon

Seems like when there’s one passing, two more happen. The rule of three or the triangle effect—however you want to look at it. I’m not a fan of dying and death. I’d rather keep enjoying the music, movies, and books!! But I’m right there with the rest of the fans who buy the music, movies, books, etc. when someone passes away. Unfortunately, death happens. There isn’t a cure for death. Not yet. It just happens.

I was talking with someone older than me the other day. The person said they didn’t understand why Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell were considered icons and legends. To this person, people like Bob Dylan or Barbara Streisand are legends and icons. Are they? Sure they’ve done some awesome stuff. But should Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell be on the same list? I think they should.

This is my opinion and I stand by it. I’m guessing you have your own and I expect you to. Opinions are good.

Dylan and Streisand are legendary people. They’ve made strides in music and film. The songs are memorable. I can’t name a Streisand song, but she’s also not my cuppa. Dylan…yeah, I can name a few of his tunes, but his vocal style isn’t for everyone. That’s okay.

Then why are they counted above Bennington and Cornell?

Metal and rock music had their starts much later than many other popular genres of music. Some cite Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin as innovators in the rock and metal genres. Those weren’t big bands until the late 60s and early 70s. Pop started back in the 50s, so they’re going to have people with more longevity in those genres. But metal and rock are having their day. Sadly, they’re also starting to feel the sting of death.

If you are like me and grew up in the 90s and 00s, then bands like Cornell’s Soundgarden and Bennington’s Linkin Park were mainstays. A lot of my college and high school days were filled with hours listening to their CDs. Numb from the Meteora album holds a special place in my heart. It got me through a lot of heavy stuff. I wasn’t particularly in to Soundgarden, but you can’t miss the grungy, heavy sound of Black Hole Sun.

So why call these people legends? Because they’re dead? One person claimed the way they passed should keep them from the status of legend or icon. If that’s the case, then Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, Brian Jones, plus Keith Moon should be kept off the list. The thing is, drugs, drink, depression…it hits us all in one way or another. Members of Alice in Chains, Drowning Pool and many others are gone too soon because of decisions made that maybe weren’t the best. Just because these people took one pill too many or decided to take their life doesn’t mean they weren’t great.

These guys were depressed. They had fame, fortune, and fans, but when you’re popular, it can be lonely. You can be in the middle of a crowded room and feel like you’re the only one there and it’s not good. It can be sad and yeah, depressing. There is pressure. What if the next record doesn’t score with the fans? What if it doesn’t sell? What if it’s deemed unworthy? What if it’s ‘not good enough’?

To some, the pressures of fame are self-inflicted. If you don’t want the stress, then don’t be famous. It’s not that simple. You generally want some fame and cash so you can keep living. But then, if you’re lucky, it gets bigger and harder to control. There is no such thing as kinda famous. There’s famous in a small town, but not kinda—that’s verging into the one-hit wonder status and that’s its own ball of pressure.

Look at Kurt Cobain. The guy wanted to play music and eat. Okay, he wanted to do drugs to numb the pain from his childhood and a stomach condition, too. Then people saw his skills with songs and lyrics…it blew up out of his control. Some didn’t understand the lyrics to the songs and others misrepresented what he meant. He felt like a sellout. For all we know, Bennington and Cornell felt the same way. I’m not saying I know they did or didn’t. I’m just saying you don’t know how these people were feeling, so it’s hard to condemn them.

It’s tough being an artist. You want to please yourself, plus make the art your soul expects you to create. It’s tiring. It’s hard. You don’t just sit down and create a masterpiece in music, art or literature. It takes time. There are many moments of self-doubt. Moments where you want to destroy what you’ve created in favor of starting over. It’s hard to know if the public will like your work and if they don’t, then that’s torture. You’ve worked so long and hard on the art only to have it rejected. You can get lost in the world of creation, trying to make your art perfect. It’s tough.

For me, the 90s and 00s will forever be the decades of NuMetal, experimentation in music and the resurgence of the massive concert experience – think Lollapalooza, Lilithfest and the Warped Tour. This music wasn’t made or listened to in a vacuum. A whole generation of people grew up on the tunes from these bands in these concerts and genres. Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington’s music represents times in our lives. To discredit these folks or to say one is more important than the other is foolish. What’s an icon to you might not be to me, but that doesn’t mean the contributions to art, whichever it is, wasn’t big.

Streisand is a great singer, but her belting out People didn’t make an impact in my life in the massive way Linkin Park’s Meteora album and Hybrid Theory did. “I know I may end up failing, too, but I know you were just like me with someone disappointed in you.” That’s a heavy lyric.

The music stands up. Soundsgarden and Linkin Park sound as fresh today as they did when the albums dropped.

We all have our legends and icons. #Legends and #rockstars never die because their #music always lives on. That’s what makes these guys #legends and #icons to me.

Wednesday Book Review ~ The Films of Tyrone Power by Dennis Belafonte, Alvin H. Marill, Henry King (Introduction)

POWER

Tyrone Power – dashing, ingratiating, urbane – became 20th Century-Fox’s foremost leading man

 

almost from the first days that Darryl F. Zanuck became head of the company. The Tyron

 

e Power image was that of the clean-cut, honest and aspiring young American. In the light comedies in which he starred during the early years of his career he generally “got the girl.” As Power matured, however, he became an actor of force and strength. His performances in Nightmare Alley, Witness for the Prosecution and Abandon Ship met with enthusiastic approval from critics and audiences alike. In the summer of 1958 Tyrone Power was appearing in what proved to be his final role, the character of King Solomon, playing opposite Gina Lollobrigida in Solomon and Sheba. Power collapsed after swordplay with George Sanders. He was rushed to a Madrid hospital, but

 

died within an hour. His death, at forty-four, made headline news around the world. The Films of Tyrone Power represents five years of research by the authors and presents many aspects of the actor’s life. Every film in which he acted is recaptured meticulously, along with casts, credits, reviews and production notes. The warm and detailed biographical portrait of the star, his three wives and his many loves, bring him alive, helped by more than four hundred photographs which illustrate the text. The introduction is by Henry King, who directed many of Tyrone Power’s greatest hits.

 

If you’re a fan of Tyrone Power, then this book is a must. The authors list each of Power’s films, including shorts and war time films. Anything you want to know about the movies, it’s there. There are film stills and promotional photos from many of the films as well. It’s thorough and informative.

I’ve always loved Power and this book puts a new spin on the actor. I never realized how well lit he was during his films–meaning the directors tended to work with the lighting for him that’s up to par, if not better than with his leading ladies. The guy wasn’t just an actor, he was an icon, but he was also seen as a pretty boy.  I never looked at him that way, but I’ve come to since reading this book. I don’t discount Power as an actor, though. He still did his job and it shows in this collection of writings about his films.

If you’ve ever wanted to know a little more about Tyrone Power’s body of work, then this book is for you.

Wednesday Book Review ~ Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

LILYTed—a gay, single, struggling writer is stuck: unable to open himself up to intimacy except through the steadfast companionship of Lily, his elderly dachshund. When Lily’s health is compromised, Ted vows to save her by any means necessary. By turns hilarious and poignant, an adventure with spins into magic realism and beautifully evoked truths of loss and longing, Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

I have to be honest. I’m supposed to read this book for my book club. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. The premise snagged me. I won’t lie. A guy and his dog. Yep. I’m a dog person. Okay, I’m a critter person. I’m the one who swears at the movie when the people live but the dog/cat/ferret/etc dies. I knew what would happen. Spoiler alert…yeah, there’s a very tissue-worthy moment at the end. Like super tissue-worthy.

But to tell you how I feel about the book…it’s complicated. I liked it. Okay, I liked parts of it. The connection between Ted and Lily was a riot. How she talked… In! All! Exclamation! Points! is very much how Dachshunds bark, so effectively how they talk. I loved that part. How she was his support was good, too. If you’ve ever had a connection with a dog, you know they aren’t just pets. They’re family. So I got and loved that part.

But there were points I kinda wasn’t impressed. The whole portion with the octopus was a little hard to handle. Once I understood, then I understood, but it took a bit. Then there was his tendency to drown his sorrows in pills and booze. Hey. We’ve all been there. Done things we wouldn’t normally do. That made Ted real, but I guess I expected something different. Maybe more….arguing. More fighting. Maybe I lost it in the metaphor of the octopus.

Either way, the book was good, but I’m not sure I can read it again. The bit at the end where I mentioned the tissues was a tad too real for me. Having put an animal down not long ago, this made those memories rawer. So if that’s a trigger for you, then read the book, but be warned. If you’re looking for a sweet, sappy ending, you might be surprised.

I’d buy this one and keep it, but I’m not sure I can handle reading it again right now. See what you think. You might be pleasantly surprised…after tissues.

Wednesday Book Review ~ Dorothy Dandridge by Donald Bogle

DOROTHYDorothy Dandridge — like Marilyn and Liz–was a dream goddess of the fifties. All audiences ever had to do was take one look at her — in a nightclub, on television, or in the movies — and they were hooked. She was unforgettable, Hollywood’s first full-fledged African American movie star.

This definitive biography — exhaustively researched — presents the panoramic dimensions of this extraordinary and ultimately tragic life. Talented from the start, Dorothy Dandridge began her career as a little girt in Cleveland in an act that her mother Ruby, an actress and comedienne, created for her and her sister Vivian. By the time she reached her teens, she was working in such Hollywood movies as Going Places with Louis Armstrong and A Day at the Races with the Marx Brothers. She also appeared at New York’s Cotton Club in a trio called The Dandridge Sisters, but soon went solo, determined to make a name for herself. She became one of the most dazzling and sensational nightclub performers around, all the white breaking down racial barriers by integrating some of America’s hottest venues.

But she wanted more. Movie stardom was her dream. And she got it. Dandridge broke through the glass ceiling of Tinseltown to win an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for her lead role in Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones. Other films such as Porgy and Bess, Island in the Sun, and Tamango would follow and the media would take notice. In an industry that was content to use Black women as comic mammy figures, Dorothy Dandridge emerged as a leading lady, a cultural icon, and a sizzling sex symbol.

She seemed to have everything: glamour, wealth, romance and success. But the reality was fraught with contradiction and illusion. She became a dramatic actress unable to secure dramatic roles. While she had many gifts to offer, Hollywood would not be the taker.

As her professional frustrations grew, so did her personal demons. After two unhappy marriages — her first to the great dancer Harold Nicholas — a string of unfulfilling, love affairs, and the haunting tragedy of her daughter Lynn, she found herself emotionally and financially — bankrupt. She ultimately lost all hope and was found dead from an overdose of antidepressant pills at the age of 42.

Drawing on extensive research and unique interviews with Dorothy Dandridge’s friends and associates, her directors and confidantes, film historian Donald Bogle captures the real-life drama of Dandridge’s turbulent life; but he does so much more.This biography documents the story of a troubled but strong family of women and vividly recreates Dandridge’s relationships with an array of personalities such as Otto Preminger, Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Peter Lawford, Ava Gardner, and many more. Always at the center though is Dorothy Dandridge, magnetic and compelling.

Donald Bogle — better than anyone else — goes beyond the surface of one woman’s seemingly charmed life to reveal the many textured layers of her strength and vulnerability, her joy and her pain, her trials and her triumphs.

I’ve heard the name Dorothy Dandridge many times. I’m from northern Ohio and she’s a cult figure there because she, like Halle Berry, made it big. But I didn’t know much about Dandridge. I’d seen pictures of her and knew she was a star, but who was this woman?

That’s where this book comes into play. I’d watched the documentary, Jazz, by Ken Burns and in the course of the episodes, Dandridge’s name was mentioned. I’m the kind of person that when I hear the name, I want to know more. But not just a simple internet search. I love my library and went there.

Bogle covers all of her life. There aren’t any glossed over portions and he’s candid about who this woman was. She wanted a happy life. She wanted to be happy and to have the love of her life. Bogle touches on her marriages, her struggle with her daughter–who was special needs before special needs was a thing–and her problems with drugs.

Dandridge is fascinating in her drive. She let very few things hold her back. When she wanted something, she went for it. Of course she dealt with racial discrimination, but the way she did, with grace and aplomb, was interesting. She held her head high when others might have cowered.

This isn’t a short read. It’s long and detailed, but it’s so fascinating. I didn’t breeze through it, but once I dove in, I had the book devoured in a matter of days. Check it out for yourself.

Smut Sunday ~ Flip Through My Pages with @MeganSlayer

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Find the other Smut Sunday Posts here: http://smutsunday.co.uk/smut-sunday/smut-sunday-11/

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the United States and everyone seems to be out barbecuing. Don’t get me wrong. I love some good barbecue. But this weekend is to remember those who fought for our freedom–wherever they’ve fought. I thank all of those who gave all.

But this is also a Smut Sunday weekend. Time for something hot. Now, the books below aren’t necessarily hot, but they brought to mind all sorts of story starts…aka plot bunnies. What happened at this library? Is a private one or public? Who was there? What did they do? How kinky did they get? Yeah, these are the places my mind goes. Heh heh.

Bookshelf Prunksaal OeNB Vienna AT matl00786ch

By Matl (own work (photography)) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What about you? What kinds of fun smut do you see in this photo? I love books, so I can see lots happening here. In fact, I’m off to jot down the plot bunny that just showed up based on this image. Let me know what you’ve come up with and you just might see mind in one of my upcoming books!